< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 
 

Notes on the Geography of Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road

A quick look at the Oklahoma River (really a seven-mile ponded stretch of the North Canadian, but we'll go with the non-flow) and at the transportation tangles--road and rail-- that have wrapped downtown.

Make default image size larger

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 1

We're looking at the ponded river. The tributary is the distal end of the man-made Bricktown canal. The building to its right is a boat house for sculls; the pyramids in the background are part of the Producer's Cooperative cottonseed-oil mill, which opened about 1900 and closed in 2015. The co-op's owners opened a mill 100 miles to the west, in Altus, and entered negotiations to sell their 27 acres here to investors who planned to build the usual stuff, plus a soccer stadium.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 2

Here's the dam that creates the pond. It's at Eastern Avenue; upstream, there are two other dams, one at Western and one at May.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 3

And here's the river immediately downstream.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 4

Here's the same streamcourse as of 1910, when the river regularly flooded. Most of the curves have been engineered away.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 5

The view upstream from the overpass at the lowest of the dams.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 6

Amenity riverfront.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 7

And here's the North Canadian less than 10 miles upstream. Until a few years ago, the Oklahoma River was as sporadic as the view here. Not that this picture represents the pristine river. What do you think is just upstream?

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 8

Voila! Another dam, this one creating Lake Overholser, the first of many reservoirs built to supply Oklahoma City with domestic water.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 9

Lake Overholser covers 1,700 acres and was completed in 1918.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 10

The reservoir site was a natural depression, as shown on the public-land survey map of the township.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 11

A close-up.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 12

The map is annotated to explain that the land had been reserved for the Army's use as a source of timber until it was released for settlement.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 13

The old cantilever bridge of U.S. 66 crosses the northern end of the reservoir, where the North Canadian enters.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 14

The growing city soon needed more water and contracted with the Corps of Engineers to take water from the upstream Fort Supply Reservoir. That, too, was insufficient, and in the 1940s a canal was built to divert water from Lake Overholser north into the watershed of the Cimarron, where another reservoir could be built on Bluff Creek. The federal government helped pay for it. Justification: flood control.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 15

Here's the canal, heading north to that reservoir, Lake Hefner.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 16

End of the canal, as the river drifts into this second reservoir.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 17

Another angle.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 18

The lake at low stage.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 19

Here's the reservoir as shown on a USGS topo sheet which shows in dramatic purple the city's rapid growth. Lake Overholser is off to the lower left.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 20

A later edition, everything a nice pink but with lots of brave new housing just downstream from the dam.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 21

The dam was finished in 1944; it's named for Judge Robert Hefner, Oklahoma City's mayor from 1939 to 1947.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 22

Looking south from the dam across the reservoir. It may look like a lot of water, but the city long ago reached still farther afield and in 1968 began taking water from Lake Atoka, even though it's 100 miles away and requires lifting the water 600 feet to raise it to the level of Lake Stanley Draper, a receiving reservoir on the southeast side of the city.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 23

Looking from the dam north over Bluff Creek.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 24

Homeowners immediately below the dam.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 25

Enough hydromania. We're back downtown at the Santa Fe depot, from which Amtrak's Heartland Flyer goes back and forth daily to Fort Worth. The Santa Fe track was completed through Oklahoma in 1886, but this depot was built in the 1930s.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 26

The train platforms are elevated on the left.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 27

Although there's only one back-and-forth passenger train daily, the line, now part of the BNSF, is still very busy with freight. Since this photo was taken, Devon has moved to a new, much taller building, the city's highest.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 28

The parking lot in the foreground is on the site of an old railroad yard. The track continued straight ahead through what is now a multi-story parking garage.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 29

Looking the other way. The Rock Island arrived in 1891, and the parking lot in the previous picure used to be that railroad's yard. (The Frisco arrived in 1898, and the MKT or Katy came in 1902. All three converged nearby.)

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 30

A railroad map from 1930, showing not only the Santa Fe, in yellow, but the Frisco in red, the Rock Island in green, and the Katy in brown.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 31

If we jump west, across the site of the former downtown rail yards, we'll find some old Purina elevators. They were built by the Oklahoma City Mill and Elevator Company, which was established in 1899 and for many years produced Choctaw Flour. The mills were acquired by General Mills in 1928 and remained in operation until 1953.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 32

See the track? It's the old Rock Island. What's it doing here?

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 33

The Katy didn't cross the city, but the Frisco and Rock Island did; their yards ran smack across the middle of downtown, from the parking lot across to the flour mill.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 34

An old photo of the Frisco passenger depot, on display in the city's Union Station, which was built to sort out the traffic jams created by the trains crossing the city. The building on the right is the Skirvin Hotel, operating today as a Hilton.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 35

And here's the county courthouse. Now that you're completely confused, put the pieces together. The Rock Island and Frisco tracks no longer cross the city, but the flour mill and the parking lot point to their original location. The lines were removed after a campaign lasting literally 20 years and pushed by The Oklahoman since 1909. The railroads weren't bothered in the least by the traffic jams they created, so they resisted change. Then, in 1930, when both railroads were bankrupt, an Oklahoma oilman named Frank Buttram met with a friend, Frederick Eckert, who happened to be chairman of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which held a lot of the railroads' bonds. Eckert heard Buttram's plea and told the railroads to accede to the city's long-pending request to vacate. On receipt of $4 million from the city, they did, and on the site the city used federal funds to build a civic center. Capisce?

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 36

Now you understand the axis that runs from the courthouse to the city hall.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 37

The west side of the city hall.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 38

Looking farther west, to the city's music hall.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 39

Flanking the civic center is the city's art museum, opened in 2003 as a conversion and expansion of the Centre Theater of 1946.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 40

Just shy of the grain elevators: the county's photogenic jail.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 41

Here are the relocated Rock Island tracks as they cross from a yard on the south side of the river on their way to the Union Station, built for the Rock Island, Frisco, and Katy after the track relocation.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 42

All three railroads are gone, but some of their tracks have been taken over, partly by the Union Pacific and partly by shortline specials. We'll take a look at one of them, the Stillwater Central, which owns the old Frisco line.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 43

Here's the relocated former Rock Island yard, just south of the river.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 44

The locos read Kansas and Oklahoma--odd name for a railroad that operates from Wichita west to the Colorado Line. It's owner, WATCO, also operates the Stillwater Central.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 45

An ex-Canadian National loco, relabelled WAMX, for Webb Asset Management. How's that for romance?

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 46

Not many turntables are left in Oklahoma, but here's one. The roundhouse, if it existed, is gone.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 47

And here's the Union Station, on South 7th Street.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 48

As the plan shows, the waiting rooms were segregated.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 49

Opening day: July 15, 1931

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 50

The ticket office was segregated, too. This side faced the general waiting room.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 51

Passengers went to the trains through this subway, which passed under five tracks.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 52

Stairs brought the passengers up to the covered platforms. In 1925, a few years before the construction of this terminal, Oklahoma City had 20 passenger trains arriving and another 20 passenger trains departing daily. They included eight Santa Fe trains running north to Chicago or south to Houston, as well as eight Rock Island trains. Both the Frisco and MKT ran two trains daily to Kansas City.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 53

A streamliner.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 54

From 1927 to 1959, the Rock Island's Texas Rocket ran from Kansas City to Houston. Rock Island trains also crossed Oklahoma City en route from Memphis west to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where they joined the Southern Pacific's line to California.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 55

The platforms survived, sort of, until 2011.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 56

There were no passenger trains by then, and the empty yard was an irresistable lure for highway engineers worried about Interstate 40 which a few blocks to the north crossed the city. Light-rail advocates were horrified but fought in vain against the highway's relocation here.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 57

Sign on a bridge.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 58

Here's the context. When the tracks were relocated here from downtown, the city made sure to avoid grade crossings. In this case, Robinson Street or U.S. 77 ducks under the tracks.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 59

It's worth mentioning in connection with the city's rail service that for several decades interurban trains reached out to the suburbs, in this case 30 miles west to Yukon. The line, which continued to El Reno, opened in 1911.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 60

Here's the interurban train to Norman, 20 miles to the south; the last one ran in 1954.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 61

The interurban station in Oklahoma City is gone, but it was on the same block as the city's Union Bus Station, at Sheridan and Walker. The station looks about the same as it did when it opened in 1941, but bus traffic is way down, from 80 arrivals daily in the 1940s to about 26 in 2012, when the terminal was sold for $2 million to a developer who now owned most of the block. He promised to preserve the station's Deco facade. Greyhound was in the process of developing a new terminal a mile to the east, at the corner of Reno and Eastern Avenues.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 62

Behind the bus station.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 63

Here's the front of that red brick building, the Riley and Denford Building, which once had a hotel upstairs and a cigar factory downstairs. Those were the days when a guy could get lung cancer in peace and quiet.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 64

And now we come to highways. Meet Stanley Draper, blueprint in hand. Call him Oklahoma City's Robert Moses.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 65

A memorial to him from 1966. It was placed next to the elevated Interstate 40 as it crossed just south of downtown.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 66

The statue has been moved, though as of 2012 the monument survives.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 67

And here's the road as it was in its last days, circa 2011.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 68

Quiet, isn't it? That's because this picture was taken early in 2012, when traffic had been shifted south several blocks to the new I-40 alignment, running over the tracks behind Union Station. For 40 years this elevated structure had rumbled and shaken with traffic: designed for 76,000 vehicles daily, it was carrying 120,000.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 69

It was in notoriously poor shape.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 70

Here, along with crumbling concrete, some reinforcing had been placed under a crossbeam.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 71

The landscaping on a corkscrew freeway entrance was still being maintained.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 72

Not so the highway itself.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 73

We can walk up that corkscrew. Just keep an eye out; we shouldn't be here.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 74

Decking-removal in progress.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 75

Steel and columns survive for a moment.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 76

Pretty soon, just the piers.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 77

A bit like Luxor, no? In the background is the city's tallest skyscraper, the new Devon building.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 78

Soon the columns bite the dust. A new street-level boulevard is to replace the old highway.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 79

And here's the new highway, designed to carry 170,000 vehicles daily. Of all the tracks that used to be here, only one survives, on the far right, and if ever light rail returns to Oklahoma City it will have to squeeze in here or get creative. Cost for the four miles of the new alignment: $680 million.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 80

Over 90 percent of the traffic roaring through won't stop, but the city has gone ahead anyway and erected what it hopes will be an iconic sculpture, lit at night in varying colors.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 81

It's called the Skydance Bridge, and the lead designer was Hans Butzer. The sculpture is part of a new downtown park still to be built. Mayor Cornett: "This soaring monument will welcome visitors and become an impressive landmark for our City."

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 82

Many blocks between the old and new highways stand vacant, awaiting development.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 83

A little creepy? Or merely bucolic?

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 84

Maybe money will cure all that ails. Here's some at work: the Devon tower, seen from the elevated (now demolished) expressway.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 85

And this? It's less than a mile to the east and is part of the very large Centennial Land Run Monument.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 86

The horses are shying at the Bricktown Canal, which dead ends a stone's throw to the right and just before the new freeway.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 87

The sculptor was Paul Moore, who apparently had a sense of humor.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 88

No Sooners in sight; everything's legit in this retelling of the story of 1889.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Water, Rail, Road picture 89

Pity: unless they're up high in a semi, motorists whizzing by can barely see the monument, thanks to artfully placed concrete walls.


www.greatmirror.com Web   
 

* Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page